Ok. It is no surprise that in the good ol’ USA we are always being marketed to. Sometimes, like during the Christian season of Lent, we are marketed to quite blatantly by the fast food chains. Excuse me? You thought it was coincidental that McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish is promoted at sale prices every spring because they were catching so many fish this time of year?! If you answered anything close to “um, well, yeah”. Send me your e-mail address and we can have some chats about some things. Add to the list Red Lobster’s “Lobster-fest”, Burger King’s “Big Fish” promotion, Wendy’s, pizza of all sorts, heck, even Chick-fil-a has a “limited time only” fish sandwich.
So, I set out on a quest to try some of these offerings. It proves to be an interesting six weeks or so. Just like burgers or chicken, all fish is NOT created equally (and I mean created, because some of what is sold out there is a shameful excuse for sea or food). I had to give up all attempts to eat well. It was, in a way, a sacrifice. I have, of late, been trying to eat good food: locally grown/sourced, sustainable, minimally processed, etc.
I started with the filet-O-fish. It is the one I am most familiar with and widely available. It would be my comparison food. I knew what I was getting: a bun (soft and somewhat sweet), a square piece of composed fish product (breaded and fried crunchy), a slice of orange “american” cheese and (if I’m lucky) a copious amount of tartar sauce. I like tartar sauce. Don’t ask where the fish comes from. (If you really want to know, Google it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) It is predictable. That is probably the best thing I can say about it. It is good, not great. There is the umami factor: some crunch, some soft, some sweet, some tangy. For the love of jelly beans, DON’T LET IT GET COLD. Not even room temperature. Eat it fresh and hot. (You might still get the gurgle and squirts, but at least you will have enjoyed it going down.) If you want to increase your chances of a good, hot, fresh sandwich, go on Friday (when they make more during Lent) and ask for an alteration (tartar sauce on the side is a good one, no cheese is another, but then you aren’t really getting the FOF).
The Burger King option is also not bad. In the past, it was merely a McDonald’s rival, but now they’ve given it a face lift. Now there is a fancy bun and you can upgrade and make it “deluxe” with lettuce, pickles, onions and their “signature King sauce”. It has cheese and the panko breading adds some crunch. It is a tad bigger than the FOF. I like McD’s fries with my FOF, so if the McDonald’s and the Burger King are equal options, I am likely to choose the FOF at McDonald’s. BK says it is 100% white Pollock. OK…
Next…Wendy’s. Their fish sandwich was good. Wendy’s claim to fish fame is a “hand cut North Pacific cod fillet, lightly breaded in crispy panko breading”. It also comes on a bun with lettuce and tartar sauce. Add the “natural cut” fries and the reasonable price, make Wendy’s a good choice. Even better if I’d rather a baked potato, a side salad, or a Frosty (yum). Wendy’s fish has a light, fresh taste that isn’t as greasy tasting as the two earlier mentioned sandwiches.
Last in the Lenten list, is the Chick-fil-a fish sandwich. This one was a complete surprise to me. I had to bribe my son to get a haircut, by promising him a trip to CFA for dinner. So, we park the car and there was a sign announcing this “limited time” offering. Wow. I don’t have to get chicken!!! No offense meant CFA. I really like your chicken. I just don’t always want chicken. Sometimes, I parlay over to the Five Guys Burgers and Fries in the same shopping center and cheat on you CFA. But I still come back to you for a shake (why FGB&F doesn’t sell milkshakes is a post for another day)! This sandwich is composed of two small, breaded fish portions on a buttered bun with pickles. Kind of like a fish impostor of the classic chicken sandwich. The signature coating of the chicken is not what is on the fish (sadly, because that would have been tasty). And there are no other adornments. If tartar sauce is desired, there are packets in the condiment cubbies near the ketchup. I wondered, if I could have requested a slice of cheese (since they do have it), but I didn’t ask. The sandwich was good. Hot, crispy…and the sweet-tangy tartar sauce was good considering its packaging. I don’t like soft, warm pickles, so I took them out. Besides, pickles and tartar sauce seemed redundant. Available a la carte or as a meal, it was so tasty with those lovely waffle fries and a half-n-half (sweet tea and lemonade). I’m going to have to have that again soon before Easter. It is such a good springtime dinner.
Now of course, there are many other options. Pizza is a Lenten classic. Lots of options there. “Ethnic” foods allow for myriad vegetable and non-meat choices. There are restaurants that serve fish of course, or pastas and of course, you can always cook at home. But if you want a fish sandwich don’t eat any of the ones I’ve reviewed above. Come to Baltimore and get a crab cake or a good “Lake trout” offering. You’ll be happy year round.